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Fashion is not a matter of size; however, it is undeniable that, in fashion, size matters. We could argue that fashion temps out when relatively ‘raw’ materials are transformed into forms and volumes; this translation is both actual and visual: clothes and accessories are devices whose very aspect is what characterises them, and therefore, their dimension might attract different kinds of attention.

'Modes de 1830: Une Perfection', Courtesy Kunstbibliothek Staatliche Museen zu Berlin CC BY NC SA

The dichotomy between the microscopic and the gigantic is something that has fascinated fashion on many levels; on the more practical, it has been translated in the development of different shapes, sometimes balanced on the same silhouette – as, for instance, in the ‘equilibrated contrast’ between a tiny waist and a burgeoning crinoline; on a more abstract note, it encompasses the possibility to provoke great astonishment with a small thing; the power of details gets, in this case, enormous.

Silk fan decorated with a miniature painting, Courtesy Museum of Applied Art Belgrade, All Rights Reserved

As two expressions of the ‘sublime’, the micro and the macro are often portrayed in fashion as two faces of the same coin: the strength of the binary lays in the harmonisation of the big and the small, the particular and the whole; or, indeed in the utter negation of this harmony. Given the richness of the Europeana Fashion Archive, which gathers material across time and space, we decided to dedicate this month to presenting some artefacts and exploring some of the experiences that have nuanced the definition of either micro or macro within the realm of fashion.

Mantua and petticoat of French silk, ca. 1755-60, Courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum CC BY SA

Moving between the two extremes, we will zoom in, putting some of the most precious examples of the ‘micro’ under our lens, to unveil their beauty and their meaning; then, we will zoom out, trying to propose a more thorough understanding of the most blatant and apparently well-known voices of the ‘macro-fashion’. Within this back-and-forth, we will also try to understand how the very idea of ‘resizing fashion’ has made possible the circulation of news on style, which would have been impossible otherwise.

Follow us this month on the Europeana Fashion Blog, for a new understanding of these two fascinating and intertwined extremes.

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